Land mines, everywhere. That’s what NFL handicapping feels like these days. Unless you’re using a zigzag strategy, you’re probably getting burned on at least a semi-regular basis by inconsistent teams like the Colts (3-3 SU and ATS), who look like gold one day and road apples the next.
But even a zigzag wouldn’t protect you from some of these midseason about-faces. St. Louis is defying the betting odds at 2-0 SU and ATS after a dreadful 0-4 start. Washington has yet to be paid since starting the season at 4-0.
Seven of the 16 teams in the AFC had broken even at the pay window once Week 7 had come to a close. The latest to join the .500 Club was the New England Patriots, who handed the books a giant payday with a 41-7 romp over the visiting Denver Broncos (+3). Only a surge of late money on New England kept that Monday Night matchup from becoming a total bloodbath for the betting public.
The Patriots win evened things out for favorites on the week at 7-7 ATS (53-46-2 ATS on the season); it also caused a 7-7 split against the over/under, which now sits at 54-46 in favor of the over. Yet despite all that market uncertainty, there are two teams that have yet to fail supporters this season: Tennessee and Houston.
Week 7 was just more of the same for the Titans: defense and running. They put QB Brodie Croyle out for commission for the rest of the season and rushed for 332 yards in a 34-10 pasting of the Kansas City Chiefs (+9) at Arrowhead Stadium. Tennessee is now 6-0 SU and ATS. Kansas City is melba toast at 1-5 SU and 2-4 ATS.
The Texans (2-4 SU, 1-5 ATS) don’t have a perfect record, but they do have the over at 6-0 with their special blend of incredibly poor defense and the hidden talents of Steve Slaton. The ex-Mountaineer picked up 80 yards on 17 attempts (4.7 yards per carry) in Sunday’s 28-21 win over Detroit (+11). It wasn’t enough to cover, but Slaton’s touchdown run helped the final score skim over the posted total of 47.5. He’s a star in the making if the Texans can get anyone to watch.
Yes, the Lions covered again to go 2-0 ATS in the past two weeks, after going 0-4 ATS and firing CEO Matt Millen. The 2008 NFL season has also seen the axe fall on three coaches, San Francisco’s Mike Nolan being the latest. Nolan was given the heave-ho Monday after the 49ers (+10) lost 29-17 to the defending champion New York Giants. That’s a fresh 0-4 SU and ATS streak for the Niners, who were 2-1 SU and ATS and looking strong out of the gate. The Giants (5-1 SU, 4-2 ATS) have been zigzagging at the pay window since Week 2.
But let’s get back to the Colts. They’ve done a masterful job of keeping handicappers on their toes, with their revolving-door offensive line, the loss of lynchpin safety Bob Sanders and the questionable health of QB Peyton Manning. In Week 6, Manning declared himself fit as a fiddle after a 31-3 victory over the defensive-minded Baltimore Ravens. Then he had a stinker of a game Sunday versus the Green Bay Packers (+1), who returned two Manning picks to the end zone in a 34-14 shocker. That leaves Green Bay at 4-3 SU and ATS with the following pattern of wins and losses: WWLLLWW. It’s madness.
If you think the Colts-Packers was wild, how about the NFC North battle between the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears. The total for that matchup was 38 points, given the presence of two of the league’s better defenses. The final score: Chicago 48, Minnesota 41. The last time the Bears were involved in a score this high was 50 years ago, when they lost 51-38 to Baltimore.
And then there was Dallas. The Cowboys (4-3 SU, 2-5 ATS) are in panic mode after losing 34-14 to the Rams (+9). Brad Johnson tossed three INTs, Steven Jackson ran for three TDs, and Dallas will almost certainly fall from the top spot on the Super Bowl futures market at 5-1 once the new prices go up on the board. Surely this can’t all be Jessica Simpson’s fault – can it?